by Fr. John A. Peck
We have been getting ready for a solid 30 (40) Days of Blogging and today is the day we begin.
Let me begin by wishing you all a blessed and fruitful Nativity Fast. This is a busy time for pastors, but it is also a time laden with unexpected opportunities. Many souls are seeking answers that only Christ can give. It is a time of evangelism! The goal of our 30 (40) Days of Blogging is to encourage and assist bloggers to blog daily for 30 days (ending Dec. 15th) and/or then to go on to a full 40 days (all completing the exercise on Dec. 25th – Christmas Day!).
As you know, the Christmas season is a time of personal reflection for most people, whether or not they are believers. During the days approaching Nativity, many people – though surrounded by festive decorations, ornaments, music and friends – feel the most depressed at this time of year. Why is that?
I believe that there is a pervasive, overwhelming feeling of disappointment, a giant let down, occurring for these souls at this time of year.
Ads on TV and other media show happy people gleefully consuming and buying (which, of course, makes them happier) and leads to a sense of mania. I also believe that many people know that this is a farce, and rather than seek some soulful cheer at Walmart (nothing against Walmart, by the way), they turn toward spiritual things.
The radio is generally worthless, as no amount of listening to “Jingle Bell Rock,” or “Frosty the Snowman” will lift the cloudy ceiling which descends on them.
Church is usually a disappointment. It’s too cardboard and stiff or too casual and loose. Are we doing something important here, or what? Where is the joy? Where is the majesty we are promised when listening to Handel’s Messiah?
Where is the glory of God?
It is precisely this ‘touch of glory’ which, I believe, the soul yearns for at Christmas. Something objectively beautiful. Something objectively holy.
When you are blogging during this time of year, your readers are looking for the anticipation of something holy, some little glimpse or taste of the glory of God. Something objectively different – and markedly so.
I know that many times before I became Orthodox, I would attend a Christmas Eve service or midnight mass only to be massively disappointed. Why? It was just another service, just another anemic message, just another recitation of platitudes that meant about as much to me as advice from Peter Pan on growing up. I invariably came away with disappointment, and even a little anger at times – though I could not put my finger on that until much later.
I came to worship the Christ child. I came to adore the manifest glory of God. I came dressed in my best clothes, with all the hopes and dreams of my heart in my hand. I wanted a taste of heaven on earth right then. I wasn’t demanding – just hoping. I was hoping to see the same in the place I was visiting. I wanted to see the ‘best’ they had to offer, so to speak. I admit, I wanted to hear the best sermon of the year, the best music within the choir’s repertoire, the finest vestments for worshiping the Creator of the Universe, become a little child.
I don’t need to tell you how that almost always ended up.
Your blog readers, one way or another, will find disappointment this Advent. It may not bother, them, it may hinder them, it may smother them.
I say that your blog is a chance to prepare them.
Nativity Fast is a time for sober reflection and self-control; a time of watchfulness, including watching one’s own heart.
Remind them to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas – and not to do all their celebrating of Christmas before Christmas Day! It is the time of preparation. It is the time of anticipation. It is the time to begin our journey towards the cave in Bethlehem, and it is a journey. Prepare them for the journey, prepare them for the arrival.
To paraphrase, and with apologies to, St. Paul,
Behold, now is the appointed time for – blogging.
Blog bountifully as we approach Nativity, and you will bring hope, light and illumination to whomever you can.
And don’t forget, the Forum now has a 30 (40) Days of Blogging Group. Join in the discussion and help out your brother bloggers, too.